Jan 15, 2016 News
…Ramjattan asks Opposition, “What’s wrong with cut and paste…?”
By Kiana Wilburg
The mudslinging was in full effect yesterday, as Members of the National Assembly argued at length on
Government’s proposed amendment to the Coroners Act. The Opposition not only contended that the Bill be sent to a special select committee, but contended that Government’s “so called amendment” is a “cut and paste” section of the Coroners Act of Trinidad and Tobago.
The People’s Progressive Party stated that the move shows nothing but incompetence.
And members of the Executive did not deny this. They weren’t the least bit bothered by accusations of plagiarism. In fact, Public Security Minister said, “What’s wrong with cut and paste if it suits our requirements? Piecemeal work is better that ‘nil-meal’ work. Y’all had it all the time and what y’all did with it? Nothing.”
The Coroners (Amendment) Bill of 2015 was brought before the House yesterday by Attorney General Basil Williams and was read for the second time. During this phase, members argued about the merit and principle of the amendment and were oftentimes upbraided by House Speaker, Dr. Barton Scotland for going off topic.
Williams said that there is simply one amendment to the Coroners Act which is cited in the Bill as Section 3A. The Amendment speaks to the appointment of persons as coroners.
It says, “3A. (1) Notwithstanding anything in Sections 2 and 3, the Judicial Service Commission may appoint fit and proper persons as coroners. (2) In the county of Demerara, there shall be at least three coroners, in the county of Berbice at least two and in the county of Essequibo, at least one….”
The Attorney General said that at present, the magistrate of the magisterial district in which an unnatural death occurs is the coroner. If that magistrate cannot conveniently or speedily be found, or is unable to act, then the nearest Justice of the Peace who is able to act, shall be the coroner.
The Minister of Legal Affairs said that the amendment effected by this Bill does not affect the law as it stands, except that it widens the meaning of coroner. He said that the amendment provides for the appointment by the Judicial Service Commission of fit and proper persons to be coroners for all of Guyana. He noted, too, that the coroner appointed shall have all the powers, privileges, rights and jurisdiction of a magistrate for the performance of his duties.
Williams told the House that the amendment to Act has its genesis in the years 2000 to 2007, the years in Guyana which were described as “the years of the killing fields.”
“It is a period we ought to be ashamed of. It was a period attended by phantom squads…I could be heavier, but I am just setting the scene to show why we are coming with the amendment. Hundreds were slaughtered during this period. Those who lost their loved ones at that time need to have closure, and they want to know how their brothers and sons met their end.”
“The then Government was either unwilling or lacked the political will to investigate these unnatural deaths, and so in our campaign, we promised the families of the victims who were slain that we would hold inquests into the unnatural deaths of their loved ones. No one should have a problem with us trying to find the truth. We need to find the truth.”
The Attorney General said that he is aware that the Opposition wants the Bill to be sent to a select committee. However, he finds such a call to be “unthinkable.” He cited this as another attempt by the opposition to frustrate the work of the Government.
Incensed by Williams’ comments, Opposition Member Adrian Anamayah took the floor and expressed his disappointment.
“Why are we doing a piecemeal fix to the Act? In fact, there was a wholesale copy from the Trinidad Coroners Act. It is a cut and paste operation. It does not address our situation. I agree the families need justice, but will increasing the number of coroners solve the problem? No.”
Anamayah said, too, that simply having an amendment which says that the Judicial Service Commission may appoint “fit and proper persons as coroners” is too generalized. He said that it needs to be more defined, to have their required qualifications presented as a prerequisite for securing the post. .
He also suggested that a separate office should be dedicated to the work of the coroners, along with providing them with a special investigative team that is equipped to help them provide answers to certain cases.
Reinforcing his colleague’s points, Opposition Member Anil Nandlall said that there is no proper infrastructure in place to support the administrative responsibilities that will follow as a result of the amendment. He explained that coroners are largely magistrates, and are answerable to the Chief Magistrate. However, “for a narrow responsibility of handling inquests, they will now be answerable to a higher authority which is the Chief Justice.”
Nandlall added, “It is an unnecessary burden to place on the office of the Chief Justice. It makes no administrative sense. Hence we are asking for a department within the Magistrate’s office to deal specifically with the matters relating to the coroners. It will bring greater administrative ease. Let this Bill go to a select committee. In 72 hours we can have a good Bill. This current Bill is an abysmal failure of an attempt to reform the law.”
Williams reiterated his disagreement with the Bill going to a select committee.
“Parliament has been carried and meandered on so many sections that are not even before the House. There is one amendment, and now they are talking about this and that and the other. They are confused by the democracy they have not practiced for the last 23 years.”
Even though the Bill was passed after the debate, both sides walked away unable to reach common ground on the matter.
Jun 18, 2021Kaieteur News – Veteran Guyanese cyclist, Raymond ‘Steely’ Newton, a member of We Stand United Cycle Club is set to compete at New York’s Premiere Professional/Amateur and Community...
Jun 18, 2021
Jun 18, 2021
Jun 18, 2021
Jun 18, 2021
Jun 17, 2021
Kaieteur News – Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, has lost power in a confidence motion in which the voting... more
Freedom of speech is our core value at Kaieteur News. If the letter/e-mail you sent was not published, and you believe that its contents were not libellous, let us know, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]